Give Thanks

Give Thanks

Rendering sincere thanks is not a natural reaction. We come into the world kicking and screaming and demanding our needs be met immediately. That is what comes natural to us. We have to be taught to say “thank you”. I have noticed many people do not say “thank you” or “I’m sorry” these days. They are still kicking, screaming, and demanding their needs be met immediately. Consequently, our society has become meaner and unsafe.

While we may excuse infants for their ingratitude, at some point in our maturity, this failure to express gratitude to God, our spouses, our children, our parents, or to anyone is sinful. Instead of expressing thanksgiving, we grumble and complain, which is sin.

Numbers 11:1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

Why was God so angry when the people complained about their hardships? Well, consider what He had done for them: 1.Delivered them from 400 years of slavery 2.Saved them from 10 plagues 3.Opened the Red Sea and dried the seabed so they could reach the other side while He held back the enemy with a pillar of fire. 4. Provided water from a rock and manna from Heaven to sustain them.

By complaining instead of being thankful, they expressed to God ungratefulness, unbelief, irreverence, a lack of trust, and a lack of love. This behavior angered God then, and it angers Him when we do this today. How do I know? God reminds us of this incident in the New Covenant He made with us.

1 Corinthians 10:10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

As this states, grumbling and complaining are serious sins. Unfortunately, we don’t consider them as sins at all; certainly, not something we need to repent of. I say that because I hear so much of it, even from my own lips. Regardless of what we think, they remain serious sins because they still express to God ungratefulness, unbelief, irreverence, a lack of trust, and a lack of love. And the wages of sin is death, both physical and spiritual death. Therefore, we need to repent and obey the Word of God. Hear what the Word says:

Philippians 2:14-15 Do everything (even the unpleasant things) without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (And leave it with Him) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

We have problems with the words “all”, “always”, and “everything”. We think our situation is an exception to these commands. That is because we are ignoring the little word “in”. God doesn’t say to be thankful for unpleasant or evil things, but to be thankful in unpleasant and evil situations. We are to render thanks unto the Lord in all circumstances. When we pray with thanksgiving and keep our focus on Christ, we will get God’s peace in the midst of a hardship.

When we worry, we are not communicating with God. Worry is the opposite of prayer. Worry shows a lack of faith and trust. It conveys God is powerless, unknowing, ignorant, doesn’t love us, or worse—He’s non-existent. We can never think of anything the Heavenly Father doesn’t already know nor that He will forget. So, it is pointless to worry.

Matthew 6:31-34 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In contrast to worry, continual prayer keeps us focused on God instead of our trial. Prayer is not to be used as spoiled child seeking for ideal conditions to impose his own will. The purpose of prayer is the maintenance of an intimate relationship with God amid whatever condition we are placed. Through prayer, God unites us into His way of thinking. Prayer enables us to see the presence of God equally present, all the time, in every condition.

Being thankful in the Lord does not depend upon external circumstances, but on the love we have for God. We imagine that a little anxiety is an indication of how wise and concerned we really are; however, it is an indication of how faithless we really are.

Hardships can be the consequences of our own sin. We understand that and expect it. However, it seems unjust to us that we should suffer hardships when we do right things. This type of suffering tempts us to grumble and complain instead of being thankful. We think, “It’s not fair, or it’s not right”. Instead of praying to our Father to get grace to persevere, we complain to everyone else to get sympathy.

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Consider Paul and Silas, who were obeying God and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had done nothing wrong, yet they suffered persecution, punishment, and imprisonment for doing God’s will.

Acts 16:20-25 They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice." The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

God directs our circumstances, but we do not believe this. Oh, we say we believe it, but how we react to hardships reveals what we really believe. Honestly, how would you have responded in a similar situation? How do you respond in your daily situations?

We can learn something from Paul and Silas. They didn’t focus on their situation nor on themselves, but stayed focused on God, worshipping the One they believed was in control of all things, even their injustice, beating, and imprisonment.

1 Peter 2:19-21 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you and example, that you should follow in his steps.

We are called to suffer unjustly. When that happens, we are commanded several times in the Bible to “lift up our eyes” to God, but we have to make the effort to look up. We cannot look up if we are grumbling, because grumbling causes us to act like the child who does not want to do what he is told and who doesn’t want to suffer.

A father says, “Look up at me,” but the child pouts and refuses to do it. We behave like that with God. Our circumstances are hard, we are not making progress in life, and the Spirit of God says, “Look up at Me,” but we refuse, and say to ourselves, “I’m not going to play this game of faith any more.”

Hebrews 12:2-3 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (The joy comes beyond the cross or hardship) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus had distressing thought about His crucifixion, but He took them to the Father at Gethsemane and focused on the Father’s will and purpose. His peace returned when He said, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

None of us have endured anything as hard as what Jesus went through for us. As God’s children, we have to be careful that we keep looking up at Jesus. Otherwise, we shall find our souls in the condition of being filled with hatred and fear and worry. As a result, we become demonically influenced instead of being led by the Holy Spirit.

Let’s consider a simple everyday example. It is not even a hardship, but it shows how vulnerable we are to grumbling and complaining and demonic influence. When it is time to get up in the morning, what do you do? We often grumble about it and speak irritably to others. If we don’t repent, pray, and focus on Jesus, we will continue to have a bad day full of grumbling and evil behavior.

What we should do in the morning is pray immediately, look up at Jesus, and give Him thanks for the ability to get up. We can say to God, ourselves, and the devil who tempts us to grumble, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!” As we continue to speak words of praise and thanksgiving, we will begin to feel thankful. We will see things differently and our spirit will be peaceful and joyful instead of irritable.

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

God does not expect us to grit our teeth and imitate Jesus. He expects us to come to Him for grace to die to self and anxiety and allow the life of Jesus to be expressed in our mortal flesh. God engineers circumstances and brings us into difficult places where we can allow the life of Jesus to be exhibited in those conditions. That is how we witness. That is how our actions back up our testimony! If we fail to get God’s grace every moment of the day, we deprive God of glory.

Consequently, the things we are going through will either make us sweeter, better, nobler men and women, or they will make us bitter, critical, and more insistent on our own way. Through trials, we are either becoming more like our Father in Heaven, or we are getting more mean and selfish like the devil.

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Still, for some of you, there will be an empty chair at the dinner table this Thanksgiving. Are we to be thankful in the midst of our grief over the loss of a loved one? This is an excellent example where we need God’s grace. No one, including God, expects us to be grateful for crime, disease, or death, but we can be thankful that we have a loving God who comforts us in sorrowful situations.

Furthermore, God does not command us to do something that He does not enable us to do through the grace and power of His Spirit. He commands what is good for us. The command to give thanks is for our benefit, so that we can have His peace.

Therefore, in the midst of our grief and sorrow, we can be thankful for the time we had with our loved one. We can talk about them, retell stories about them, and comfort one another during Thanksgiving. The key to being thankful is to count the blessings we had with our loved one. We must not focus on what we don’t have. We must focus on God’s blessings. Furthermore, we can be thankful for the relationships we still have in this world, for each person who is still around our Thanksgiving table. Be sure to tell them and God how thankful you are for their presence.

In addition, we can be thankful death is not the end of things. We can be thankful Jesus has delivered us from death and given us eternal life. Unlike unbelievers, we have hope of something better than this life. And if our loved one was a believer in Christ, then they are thankful and rejoicing in the presence of God!

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

If we believe what Jesus said, we have much to be thankful for and much to look forward to.

Psalms 107:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

For reasons we may not understand, bad things happen. God does not say, “Do you want to go through this trial?” He allows these things for His own purpose, one of which is to conform us to the image of Jesus. During our trials, we draw close to God and receive His grace. Through faith in Jesus and keeping our eyes on Him, we will be changed and we will be victorious.

If we say to God, “Thy will be done,” we get the tremendous peace of knowing that our Father is working everything according to His own wisdom. Therefore, like Paul and Silas, we should thank God in the midst of our trials and pray and worship Him.

We all have trials of some kind. According to Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Ungratefulness, worry, and grumbling show a lack of love for God, and consequently, we won’t receive the good God intends for us if we continue in this sin. Repent and ask God to give you a thankful heart.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Do you know that peace of Christ today? Are you thanking Him in the hardships you face? Can you thank God for your salvation? If not, then you can experience that salvation and peace today.

By confessing Jesus as Lord, repenting of your sin, and following Jesus in baptism, you will experience a new life, born of the Spirit of God. He will fill you with joy, peace, love and thanksgiving.